Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Is More Swim Training Worth It?

I've wrestled with this question often and assume that other triathletes have similar thoughts. Earlier in the season, I decided that my swim was "fast enough" and that my time would be better spent on other sports, particularly on bike. So, I simply maintained my swim. Was this the best decision? Is it the best decision going forward?

In talking with many other triathletes about the swim and this question, this comment also comes up, "I would have to put in 50%-100% more time in the pool to simply save :45 seconds on the swim in a race. Where as, if I only increase my bike training by 10% I would save 3:00 on the bike in a race." This makes sense and this is usually where the conversation stops.

However, I think there is more to this equation. It isn't simply a one-to-one relationship where more swim work equals a faster swim time. For me, I think the equation goes like this:

More swim work = more pre-race confidence + a faster swim time + a faster bike time + a faster run time

Let me explain....

More pre-race confidence: The swim is always the first leg of a triathlon and is likely the place that many of the pre-race jitters are dealt with. Knowing you have trained well for the swim should not only alleviate negative doubt that could seep into more of the race well past the swim, but should promote a positive outlook, which we all know positively impacts performance.

A faster swim time: Assuming you aren't just doing more swim work in vain and know what you personally need to improve, this is fairly self explanatory. Putting more productive effort towards swimming should result in a faster swim time.

A faster bike/run time: If no more time is spent on either the bike nor the run in training and only an increased productive effort is devoted towards swimming, it is likely that you will hit the bike with more energy purely from improved swim fitness in addition to reaping the benefits of the positive outlook referred to above. Same goes for the run; increasing fitness in a preceding sport should lead to improved performance in a subsequently performed sport.

I buy into the longer, more complicated equation and have implemented the resulting outcome; increased productive effort devoted towards swimming. Yes, I might only save :45 seconds off of my swim time, but will likely pick up significantly more in the long run.

On caveat...I have not made this change without considering its' impact on primary bike and run training. I have gone through a similar "equation exploration" with each sport and have adjusted my training appropriately.

Any data to support this you might ask? Well, this is test week, again, and my swim times have improved :04/100 to a season's best. Bike and run tests to follow later this week....I am confident that I will PR those as well.

Getting dialed in.